Working to Conserve and Enhance Chalk Stream Habitats and Wildlife

The Vitacress Conservation Trust

From 2006 – 2023, the VCT was a charitable organisation, focused on environmental initiatives associated with salad and watercress crop production. 

We were committed to creating and building a Conservation Trust that really does make a difference, improving and protecting some of the special habitats we were privileged to work in and around and making them better understood by, and accessible to, the public – especially our local schools.

Our focus was on environmental initiatives associated with salad and watercress crop production. We did this through working in close partnerships and creating strong links
with like-minded organisations such as Wildlife Trusts and The University of Southampton.

Vitacress Conservation Trust Closure

How does the saying go? All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many outstanding successes, but the Trustees feel  that now is a good time to celebrate those achievements and bring the VCT to a glorious conclusion.

Since the VCT’s inception in 2006 we have set about fulfilling our commitment to create and build a Conservation Trust that really does make a difference, improving and protecting some of the special habitats we are privileged to work in and around and making them better understood by, and accessible to, the public.

Our work has included hosting 16 annual Chalk Stream Headwaters Forums, bringing together interested stakeholders to discuss their different perspectives and how they valued chalk streams. We  have welcomed many interesting speakers, listening to their expert views and understanding what needs to be done. Thank you to all who have participated at Chalk Stream Headwaters Forums over the years – who have shared our keen interest in protecting, conserving and working to restore our iconic chalk streams.  We hope and trust that you will continue to be active in looking after these.

In the early days the VCT also hosted an ‘Annual Environment Lecture’ at the University of Southampton, welcoming a number of high profile speakers.

Where we saw problems we have funded action research to address them – more than a dozen PhD students have been funded. This research has, and is, helping us define what good ecological status looks like in a chalk stream.

We have given long term financial commitments to multiple conservation projects including conservation and breeding of native cray fish, we have hosted multiple school children on-farm to learn about watercress growing.

Most importantly we kicked off and supported for over a decade, two stakeholder groups – The Bourne Rivulet Group and the Upper Itchen Initiative. They gained a life of their own and participated in developing the ‘Watercress and Winterbournes’ lottery funded project and helped raise the profile of chalk streams to local and national interest. Rarely a week goes by these days without chalk streams receiving some national press coverage and we now have our Cross Party Parliamentary Group also championing the cause.

We are enormously grateful to Vitacress, for their financial and administrative support as well as their technical expertise.

I would also like to acknowledge the significant contribution made by the individual Trustees, past and current, and for the long-term commitment of our dear Patron, Lady Wakeham, who has been an unwavering supporter of our VCT activities.

Gail Taylor, VCT Chair

Discover More

Riverfly Monitoring Initiative

Projects

From river monitoring to supporting wildlife populations, we held many ongoing projects that involve local schools and communities.

School Trips

Educational Activities

Find out about our school visits, debates and lectures, and download a copy of our resource pack, the Wonderful World of Watercress.

Building Biodiversity

Forums

Our forums encouraged discussion and new ideas for the management of the wellsprings of some of Europe’s most ecologically important rivers.

Improving awareness of wildlife connected to chalkstream habitats

2013 Forum

Research

The Vitacress Conservation Trust was proud to support research projects in line with our key objectives of preserving and conserving wildlife and habitats associated with watercress and other salad crops for the public benefit.

The Wonderful World of Watercress

Educational Resources

From The Wonderful World of Watercress to Chalk Rivers and Their Wildlife, download our booklets and videos to help children learn about the importance of protecting wildlife and looking after our rivers.

Meet the team!

Meet the team

Our team of trustees support The Vitacress Trust in its commitment to the sustainability and environmental issues surrounding watercress in the UK.

Together, they brought a wealth of experience to help provide education and activities for local schools and communities.